WILSON, Thomas II (?1767-1852), of Wood House, East Ham, Essex.
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Family and Education
b. ?1767, s. of Robert Wilson of Wood House by his w. (d. wid. 17 May 1818). m. 23 Nov. 1796, Anne Mary Sabina Chenebié, da. of John Francis Blache of Homerton, Mdx. (formerly of Vevey, Switzerland), 4s. 3da.
Member, Spectaclemakers’ Co.; dir. Phoenix Assurance Co. 1811-d., East Country Dock Co. 1817.
Cornet, London and Westminster light horse 1796.
At the time of his marriage at St. John’s Hackney in 1796, Wilson was described as of St. Margaret Slattery, London; and the Gentleman’s Magazine reported the marriage at the same time of Robert Wilson junior, his brother, to Joanna Coussmaker of Hackney.1 By 1794 Wilson was in partnership with Lewis Agassiz, father and son, of 36 Fenchurch Street and, as such, signed the London merchants’ loyal declaration at Grocers’ Hall, 2 Dec. 1795. Soon after 1811 Wilson, Agassiz Co. were of Jefferies Square. The evidence of his speeches in Parliament suggests that he was ‘an advocate for the commercial and shipping interests’, particularly the latter, and that he had been at Grenada. So he was probably the Thomas Smith, Grenada merchant, who testified to the West Indian committee on 17 July 1807. In 1812 he gave evidence to the House on the effects of the orders in council.2 He stood as ‘the candidate of the superior merchants’ for London in 1818 and was returned in second place, the only ministerialist to be returned at that election for the City. He was also the only Member for the City in this period who never became an alderman. He declined to serve as sheriff in 1818, in case Parliament was dissolved ‘within the year’.3
Wilson had tried to resist pressure from common hall but, in the interests of retrenchment, he opposed the Windsor establishment bill, 22 Feb. 1819, and the royal household bill, 19 Mar. On the first, he said
he was perfectly aware, that the eyes of the public were fixed upon the House, on the present occasion. He was not ashamed, however, to say that he was not to be always bound by the popular opinion, as he anxiously wished to act on candid, liberal principles; but he must say, that on the present occasion, he should unquestionably vote against the measure proposed by ministers, and give his hearty support to the amendment.
Financial policy was Wilson’s chief interest in debate; his first speech was on the problem of the Bank restriction, 29 Jan. 1819, and he was named for the secret committee on it, 3 Feb. On 25 May he defended the Bank’s right to resume payments at its own discretion, not by the purchase of bullion, but in consequence of ‘the natural operations of trade’. He disliked resorting to the sinking fund to facilitate resumption of payments and thought it could only be justified as an emergency measure, 13 May. He voted against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May. At his constituents’ request, he opposed the coal duties, 4 Mar., 20 May, and the foreign enlistment bill at every stage, presenting on 3 June a London merchants’ petition signed by 1,700 persons against this refusal to aid the South American patriots when aid had already been given to the Spanish government. He opposed and, in the case of the tea duties, amended the excise duties bill, 18 June. The same day he expressed his ‘downright abhorrence’ of the tax on wool. On 22 June he voted with the majority for the extension of the franchise at Penryn.
In defence of the seditious meetings prevention bill, 6 Dec. 1819, he said that, if operative for five years, it should at least stem unrest due to the unemployment and heavy taxes and thus reduce public expenditure, which would favour the cause of the ‘lower orders’ in the long run. He deprecated agitation for parliamentary reform: people complained that
a majority of it [the House] gave its votes as a matter of course to the ministers of the crown. But was not this likely to be always the case? And if the gentlemen opposite were to come into power, would they not think themselves also justified in making use of the patronage of government?
He was, however, hostile to the night search clauses in the seizure of arms bill, 14 Dec.: ‘he did not ... see any necessity for the extraordinary coercion that the obnoxious clauses manifested’. He thought the bill tended to alienate a public opinion that was disposed to be ‘loyal and obedient’. Yet he voted for banishment for persons found guilty for a second time of libel, 23 Dec.
Wilson was re-elected in 1820 and remained a prominent spokesman for the City mercantile interest. He did not offer in 1826, but was defeated in 1835. His business became Wilson and Blanshard in 1823, and about 1834 Wilson & Co. moved from Jefferies Square to Warnford Court, Throgmorton Street. The firm were still extant as shipowners in Mark Lane in 1889. Wilson died 10 Oct. 1852, aged 85.4 He was caricatured as ‘Buckskin’ Wilson.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: Lawrence Taylor / R. G. Thorne
- 1. Gent. Mag. (1796), ii. 965, which gives 21 Nov.; the parish reg. gives 23 Nov.
- 2. PP (1807), iii. 57; Parl. Deb. (n.s.) iv. 1161; viii. 226; x. 1193.
- 3. Beaven, Aldermen of London, i. 293; Morning Chron. 12 June 1818; Gent. Mag. (1852), ii. 637; Fitzwilliam mss, box 93, Maltby to Milton, 21 July 1818.
- 4. Gent. Mag. loc. cit.